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The Scarlet & Black

Burling’s Listening Room kills the silence

By Michael Schoelz

While most students are moving from DVDs and CDs to torrents and online databases like Netflix, the Listening Room, located in the basement of Burling Library, found success by turning that trend on its head. Over the summer, Facilities Management renovated the tiny office, expanding it so that Burling’s entire media catalogue could be on display for browsing.

“We felt it was difficult for patrons to know the extent of the collection if it was all housed back here in the office where people couldn’t browse it,” said Randye Jones, Listening Room Supervisor. “Of course, the library catalogue is available but sometimes you still needed to know what you were looking for. So, it just seemed more user-friendly and better supportive of the academic programs … to be able to browse the collection yourself, see what’s there and discover things that you didn’t know we had.”

The new listening room has over 6,000 videos and about 22,000 CDs that are available at any time Burling is open.

“Everything is out except a few materials that we designated as library-use only that we want to continue to provide some level of protection,” Jones said. “From the CD [collection], it’s primarily archival material, one-of-a-kind recordings and thus we want to make sure that nothing happens to them. But for the most part, the collection is out there.”

The change has been well-received by students and faculty and use of the materials picked up considerably compared to previous years.

“I’ve had faculty who have come in who have been here for years that had no idea we had certain recordings in the collection until they happened to be walking through to see what we actually had on the shelves,” Jones said. “[The patrons] seem to have a very enthusiastic response to the presence of the collection now being outside and being able to have access to whenever the library is open.”

Emily Evans ’13 began working in the Listening Room at the beginning of this past summer to help with the renovation. She thinks being able to browse is a huge improvement over the previous system.

“You don’t have to look through that big manual catalogue to find a title that might be interesting,” Evans said. “[Now,] it’s like Family Video with more international films, a little more culture.”

Although the office is still in the basement, the renovation opened up the space, another aspect Evans appreciates.

“We added some big windows in there … and so it’s less like a dungeon, which is nice,” Evans said.

In addition to the physical changes, much of the content that had been off-site was returned to the Listening Room. Before the expansion, the growing collection of items had just been too large to fit in the office.

“We had been weeding VHS recordings that had not been in circulated for at least five years and moved those materials off-site,” Jones said. “Since the move, we were able … to bring those materials back and then reassess them. If they get checked out because now people know they’re here then that’s certainly a valuable service to bring back into the room.”

The Listening Room wasn’t the only catalogue in the library that made some changes over the summer. The library staff revamped the Microform Room as well.

“There were a number of shelves that were simply empty or used at very limited level,” Jones said. “So they decided to consolidate the services for the Microform Room into a smaller area that still allowed full access to the equipment but would reduce the storage space.”

The renovation is part of a larger plan by the College to consolidate the media services that are provided on campus. Over the next few years more changes will come but for now the only other changes left for the Listening Room is to continue the process of expanding and maintaining the collection. And to reflect the change in services, Jones is now accepting ideas for a new name that is more representative of the services now offered. Send your ideas to [jonesran] or fill out a naming form in Burling Library.

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